Prince Harry follows in Princess Diana’s footsteps as he calls for the removal of landmines

By Zach Harper

Prince Harry invoked his late mother Princess Diana’s memory when he made a passionate speech calling for governments to finally clear landmines on Monday (June 17).

The Duke of Sussex spoke at think tank Chatham House’s Mine Clearance, Conservation and Economic Development in Angola conference, and said not only do landmines have a negative impact on people, but they affect the environment and economy as well.

“Let’s not forget, landmines are a humanitarian issue, not a political one,” the prince said, calling them an “emergency.”

“What is less well-known is the impact landmines can have on conservation and wildlife, and therefore the economy,” he continued. “We’ve heard how this is especially the case in the national parks and wilderness areas of southeast Angola, including the precious and again vital watershed of the Okavango Delta.”

The 34-year-old said the country’s rich biodiversity means de-mining is critical to protect natural habitats and strengthen not only its economy, but those of other sub-Saharan African countries, as well.

“Angola is an important example of a country leading the way in clearing the remnants of war,” he said.

Harry said there has been positive change since his mother walked through an Angolan minefield in 1997. Photo: © Getty Images

From 1975 to 2002, Angola was beset by a bloody civil war that killed at least 500,000 people and internally displaced at least 1 million others. As a result, Angola still has some of the most landmines in the world. It has some 1,200 known minefields and more than 91 square kilometres of land that has been mined, according to the UK’s Mines Advisory Group, which works to destroy mines, munitions and unexploded bombs in conflict zones worldwide.

In 1997, Diana visited Angola and walked through a minefield in Cuando Cubango province while she was there with anti-landmine charity The HALO Trust. Harry cited his mother’s work as being instrumental in starting change in the southwest African country. Indeed, the same year Diana visited Angola, the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines was signed by 121 governments. There are now 164 states that are party to the treaty.

Harry went to the same province of Angola in 2013 with The HALO Trust. He also walked through minefields that had been cleared by the group in Mozambique in 2010. More than 1 million people were killed and more than 4 million others were displaced during Mozambique's own civil war, which raged from 1977 to 1992.

Harry has been interested in issues related to landmines and the unexploded remnants of war since he visited Mozambique in 2010. Photo: © The HALO Trust/Getty Images

“I saw a struggling community in a deserted landscape unable to make use of the land, yet the potential to turn this land into a sustainable source for its people,” he said of his time in Angola, and also praised the country for the de-mining work it has done to date. But Chatham House says over the last 10 years, funding for d-emining has dropped by 90 per cent, which Harry called “shocking.”

“Considerable progress has been made, but there is still a huge amount to do,” he said. “We hope that today will encourage those countries not to leave a job left half done.

“As long as landmines are in the ground in Angola, we aren’t really giving them a chance. There is an end in sight, which has already been discussed, and that isn’t always the case. So let’s make the most of this opportunity.”

MORE: Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan going on royal tour of Angola, Malawi and South Africa: report

Harry will get the chance to continue his mother’s work when he and Duchess Meghan head to Angola on a tour that will reportedly also include trips to Malawi and South Africa later this year. While further details of the trip haven’t been released yet, reports say the jaunt will be focused on humanitarian issues.

The couple will reportedly be working to expand Harry’s Sentebale charity in Malawi. The organization, which was founded by the new dad and Prince Seeiso of Lesotho in 2006, provides support for young people and families affected by HIV/AIDS in Malawi, Botswana and Lesotho.

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